The Man Behind The Bench

David Hoff's Passion For Teaching Goes Well Beyond The Classroom

High school math teacher by day, Paralympic sled hockey head coach by night. From teaching formulas and theories to teenagers in class to coaching the top sled hockey players in the world at the rink, David Hoff is a man of many talents.


And once again those talents will be on display when Hoff leads the U.S. Paralympic Sled Team at the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. The U.S. enters the tournament as the top seed after the team’s dominating performance at the 2021 World Para Ice Hokey Championship. 


For the Bottineau, N.D., native, it’s just another step in a journey that began at a very young age.


“I grew up playing hockey,” Hoff said. “But I also played baseball and track and field, all sports I’ve been very passionate about. I’m from a small town, so growing up and playing sports with your friends was one of the coolest things about doing it, I thought.”


His love for coaching grew as he progressed through his teenage years as he set his sights on coaching high school sports. The best way to get his foot in the door, he thought, was to become a teacher. Hoff earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary mathematic education, to which he later earned a master’s degree in mathematics education as well as secondary mathematics, all from Minot State University in North Dakota.


“I realized at some point during high school that I wanted to be a hockey coach,” Hoff said. “I thought that I would need to become a teacher and the one subject I really liked was mathematics. Sports attracted me to the math side of things, I’ve always loved learning and I continued to do so, earning a bachelor’s degree along with a masters.”


Fast-forward to 2019 when Hoff, the hockey/track & field coach as well as a mathematics teacher and athletic director at Bottineau High School, retired from his role after 30 years in the position. His retirement didn’t last for long as just one year later Hoff was hired on to teach mathematics at a neighboring high school that was in dire need of a teacher for the 2020-21 school year.


“Mathematics teachers are considered an area of need in North Dakota,” he said. “My decision to go back was ultimately, I’m a teacher. I want to help people be the best math student they can be.”


Hoff brings that same philosophy to the rink in working with the U.S. sled program.


“I want the players to be the best sled player they can be,” he added. “I like to make connections with whoever I’m teaching, whether it’s in the classroom or on the ice, and hopefully motivate them.”


Hoff’s affiliation with USA Hockey dates back more than a decade when he was named the Northern Plains District Coach-In-Chief. He was first got introduced to sled hockey in 2011 when legendary coach Jeff Sauer invited him to USA Hockey’s summer sled camp. Several years later he made his debut with the national team as the assistant coach, a role he filled at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games where the U.S. captured a third-straight Paralympic gold medal.


Hoff took over as head coach of the team in 2018-19 where he coached Team USA to a 10-1-0-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L) record, which included going undefeated in the 2019 Para Ice Hockey World Championship, claiming gold. He guided the team to gold again at the 2021 IPC Para Ice Hockey World Championship.


“When I got the email in 2011 to be a part of the summer sled camp, I never dreamed that 10 years later I would be the head coach of the Paralympic team,” Hoff said. “I never had a plan, I would always go back and just do the best job that I could and that’s what it has led to. I try to not get caught up in the past and things we’ve accomplished. As much success as we have had as a team, we can always get better and continue to grow.” 


What some may think of a difficult transition, going from coaching able-bodied hockey to sled hockey, Hoff said the two are virtually the same and that there’s a lot of similar concepts and that there’s little things that you have to adapt to as a coach.


As for being named the seventh head coach for the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team, Hoff couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity.


 “Being named the head coach though is an incredible opportunity,” Hoff said. “I’m going to do everything I can to make the most of this opportunity and to help our players play as well as they can.”


And the U.S. Sled Program is happy to have such an experienced educator and coach leading the charge toward Beijing, where they will be looking for their fifth gold and sixth-straight medal.


“David is more than just an outstanding coach, he’s an outstanding human being,” said Dan Brennan, general manager for the 2022 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team. “He cares about the players and has done a terrific job leading our team since taking over as head coach.”

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